By Whitney Simon, Account Director, Missive
My perspective of leadership has always been somewhat skewed. Throughout my career, I’ve always viewed it as specific traits that one must naturally possess in order to effectively guide a team or organisation. In my narrow understanding of leadership, I believed that leaders had to be these “larger-than-life personalities” that were extroverted, confident and unflappable. As a result, it has always been difficult to view myself in this light – especially as a black, queer woman.
It was only by participating in The Xec. scheme that I was able to shift and broaden my understanding of what leadership entails. Being an effective leader is not just about possessing certain traits, but about being committed to doing what it takes to support and empower your teams in and out of the office. And this commitment can manifest in various leadership styles that range from outgoing and confident to more reserved and muted.
Understanding Different Leadership Styles
During one of our incredible training sessions, we spent time learning about DiSC, a framework that breaks down leadership styles into four categories: dominant, influential, supportive and cautious. The DiSC leadership profiles are as follows:
- Dominant: Assertive, confident leaders who value quick, tangible results and a hard work ethic.
- Influence: Enthusiastic, inspiring, and personable leaders who value creative innovation and social interaction.
- Steadfast/Supportive: Supportive leaders that tend to genuinely care and nurture their team members while encouraging a more people-oriented work environment.
- Conscientious/Cautious: Cautious leaders who tend to establish clear procedures to follow and encourage a more independent and data-driven work approach.
Although I was familiar with the DiSC framework, this session took the conversation a step further by highlighting how leadership requires a combination of all these styles in order to yield the best results. It was revelatory to consider that even the most influential leaders need to develop their different styles of leading – even those not natural to them. While it’s been established that having a variety of people with different skills and backgrounds is important for creating a successful business, this session made me realise the importance of adopting this approach when it comes to leading a team of individuals with a diverse set of needs.
Coming Into My Own as a Leader
All of The Xec. programming has been amazing thus far, but the “leadership” workshop was a major turning point for me. Despite being part of a cohort of individuals who had already achieved so much in their careers, during that session they all expressed their struggles to see themselves as leaders as well. And this didn’t just stop with my peers in The Xec. – this “imposter syndrome” of sorts when it comes to leadership was something that we’ve heard from a number of the tutors, mentors and presenters we’ve heard from throughout the scheme.
It was only after that session that I was able to stop thinking about all the reasons I couldn’t be an effective leader, and embrace my own unique leadership style. A style that is made up of equal parts influence and support, a penchant for swearing and communicating via GIFs, a lover of regular coffee date 1:1s, and most importantly, a leader-in-progress.
The Leadership Journey Ahead
Although The Xec. scheme is (too quickly) coming to an end, my leadership journey is just beginning. While I’m sure there will still be plenty of moments of doubt and uncertainty along the way, it’s comforting to know that it’s all part of the process of becoming the best leader I can be.
Connect with Whitney Simon on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Whitney was awarded a place on The Xec. Leadership Scheme for UK-based Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Ethnic Minority PR and comms pros. She will be mentored by Anisha Vikram Shah, Consulting Director, Blurred.